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When the Seasons Don't Fit: Speedy Molt as a Routine Carry-Over Cost of Reproduction
Dietz, M.W.; Rogers, K.G.; Piersma, T. (2013). When the Seasons Don't Fit: Speedy Molt as a Routine Carry-Over Cost of Reproduction. PLoS One 8(1). dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0053890
In: PLoS One. Public Library of Science: San Francisco. ISSN 1932-6203, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Dietz, M.W.
  • Rogers, K.G.
  • Piersma, T., more

Abstract
    The failure of animals to fit all life-cycle stages into an annual cycle could reduce the chances of successful breeding. In some cases, non-optimal strategies will be adopted in order to maintain the life-cycle within the scope of one year. We studied trade-offs made by a High Arctic migrant shorebird, the red knot Calidris canutus islandica, between reproduction and wing feather molt carried out in the non-breeding period in the Dutch Wadden Sea. We compared primary molt duration between birds undertaking the full migratory and breeding schedule with birds that forego breeding because they are young or are maintained in captivity. Molt duration was ca. 71 days in breeding adults, which was achieved by an accelerated feather replacement strategy. Second-year birds and captive adults took ca. 22% and 27% longer, respectively. Second-year birds start molt in late June, more than four weeks before captive adults, and almost seven weeks before adults that return from breeding in late July-August. Adults finish molt in October when steeply increasing thermostatic costs and reductions in food availability occur. Primary molt duration was longer in female than in male knots (all ages), which was accordance with the somewhat larger body size of females. Since fast growth leads to lower quality feathers, the speedy wing molt shown by Arctic-breeding birds may represent a time constraint that is an unavoidable and routine cost of reproduction. So far it was hypothesized that only birds over 1 kg would have difficulty fitting molt within a year. Here we show that in birds an order of magnitude smaller, temporal imperatives may impose the adoption of non-optimal life-cycle routines in the entire actively breeding population.

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